This photograph was taken outside the Magdalen Road Studios project space Filament 14, during MfOR’s mid term gathering of artist proposals.
NB. The poem in this blog post first appeared on my (Sonia Boué’s) The Other Side blog site, which is where much of the material about my research on the autistic professional template for MfOR can be found.
So we’ve reach a mid term point in our Arts Council funded research and development for MfOR. Where have we got to?
My professional template research was planned to take place alongside practical development of the MfOR project, but in practice has been so radical in it’s findings that a reshaping of the project has been needed, which continues to evolve.
The key questions to emerge – what is an autistic-led project, and have we designed one – were not even framed at the outset, let alone tested.
The answer to the latter is that we haven’t, because (Catch 22 alert) we didn’t know what one looked like before my research began.
Due to prevailing norms we’ve designed a predominant neurotype (PNT) project, based on PNT principles – which (by definition) are largely disabling to an autistic person/professional.
Redesigning the project is therefore a process – ongoing.
In a nutshell, MfOR began as an optimistic experiment with my autism, yet I was from first principles unwittingly disabled by my own PNT influenced project design.
Autism is a non-trivial human difference, and yet PNT systems are so embedded in the everyday that one is easily wrong-footed and (in very real terms) dis-abled despite being a perfectly competent autistic human. But however competent I may be, I can’t project lead while disabled.
Fortunately, part of my particular humanness is a heightened ability to focus, analyse, unpick and reconstruct. My ‘condition’ (if it is such) makes me a creative troubleshooter par excellence – I have to be to survive.
The job right now is to allow space for this thinking to unfold. I’m discovering so much about being disabled, about the absolute wisdom of the social model of disability and – more importantly still – how non-autistic humans become disabled in autistic spaces. This really does work both ways.
I hope the Arts Council – if they’re watching at this stage – approve that much of my working through of this thinking comes via the poetic form. My last ACE funded project Through An Artist’s Eye had poetry as a core professional development goal for improvement in technique and confidence. Hey, Arts Council – that was money well spent, and this is too. I can’t think of many more important cultural causes than a true investment in diversity. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to carry out this difficult, challenging and significant work – which I hope will be of benefit to others. The personal and professional development for me is proving immense.
Here is the preamble to the poem from The Other Side.
“The context for my poem Perfect storm is the research for my Arts Council Funded project – The Museum for Object Research. It isn’t about any one person or conversation, but more about my growing understanding of the ways in which I am disabled – despite being a competent human – by ingrained assumption and the double empathy bind.”
Dawn brings the perfect storm.
And skylights catch droplets in rapid succession.
Yet I am deaf to their timpani.
Undoing the stitches of my carefully fashioned…
I have spoken for the first time of my disability.
A pointed conversation.
But what of…
Yes! I say (quite shamelessly).
I do have one.
And degrees and so forth.
(Despite scoring zero for I.Q.*)
And, what is more,
I often soar above you.
(The aerial view is our prerogative.
Including the ‘voiceless’ and the more visibly NEEDY.
Sharing a something you can’t reach.
Ah yes – a club of sorts.
Seemingly without a fee.)
And perhaps this difference.
Well. It’s irrefutably so.
Is. Also. Your. Disability.
The places you can’t go.
I am disabled.
But by what?
And by whom?
What (I ask myself).
And. Most certainly.
I can read it.
In the symbiosis of our smiles.
And we can act like kittens.
Playing with string.
Until it’s time.
To bring the dead bird in.
A trophy to trying.
A cup to greet the day.
* My cognitive profile is not measurable as an IQ score.